Its show time
Africa offers some of the best natural entertainment on earth but get the timings wrong and you may find yourself being disappointed.
Take a look at our quick season review to be sure of booking your safari for the right months.
January through April, is the calving season in Tanzania. For many clients the chance to see newborn animals in the wild is a big draw. February is an ideal time to see babies in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. The calving season runs from January to April and the big game such as lions, hyenas, leopards and cheetah are at their most active as they stalk their prey.
February half-term offers one of the best times to look at an 8-day trip from London via Arusha to Tanzania’s northern parks (southern parks are hot and humid) as thousands of wildebeest are actually born around this time
February and March are often referred to as the Emerald season in Zambia. When the rains arrive in Zambia the bush explodes with colour and new life. The Luangwa River overflows, flooding vast areas and enabling game viewing by boat and on foot. Baby hippos bask in the water and birdlife is prolific. There is an added incentive in that packages are cheaper at this time of year because it is outside peak season. Check out safaris by river as there are some amazing journeys to explore
April through June offers a virtually guaranteed sighting of the 1.5 meter tall Shoebill with its 2 meters wingspan, legs like a stork and a beak like a pelican. The awe-inspiring Victoria Falls is one of Africa’s most iconic sights and during these months the Zambezi River tends to flood so its flow peak and the falls can be seen at their best. Combine safari in Zimbabwe at Hwange National Park, Victoria Falls and a stay in the Bangweulu Swamps of northern Zambia to see the unusual Shoebill bird.
Botswana is home to the largest inland delta in the world, the Okavanga Delta and has the biggest concentration of elephants in the world in Chobe National Park. May is a fantastic month in Botswana when the floods mean guests can experience the delta by mokoro, a dug-out canoe which is a high season experience but at low-season prices which can be up to 30% less.
Namibia offers the perfect time to visit this stunningly beautiful and friendly country. The peak season has not arrived, warm days with dry blue skies offer an explosion of colour and the elephants, giraffes, zebra and antelopes with their babies munch their way through the lush woodlands.
July to September offers the season for the wildebeest migration through East Africa. Known as the Great Migration Kenya has front-row seats for the famous Mara River crossings. No other place has such movement of animals as the huge as the wildebeest migration when more that 2millions animals migrate up through Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and cross into the greener Masi Mara National Reserve. To enjoy a family experience look for a family-friendly lodge, such as Sanctuary Olonana and &Beyond Kicwha Tembo where the activities are catered for the children shorter game drives, nature walks and treasure hunts.
The winter months in Malawi offers the best stargazing as skies are clear. The days are warmer but the nights are cooler.
The best chance of seeing the elusive desert elephant of Namibia is between May and November where they are confined to the riverbed where they dig for water to access the springs. Between January and April they disperse all over the country making it trickier to locate them. Desert rhinos follow that same pattern.
September to October is Spring time in the Cape provinces and delightfully spectacular as the plains are covered with blankets of flowers. The best place for such unique flora and fauna is Namaqualand in the Western and Northern Cape. However the highlight of the Western Cape is the arrival of the Southern Right whales, who have migrated from Antarctica ready for mating. The whales can be seen all the way from Capetown through to the Eastern Cape. Combine a trip to the whale-watching capital, Hermanus, with a self-drive along the famous Garden Route.
By complete contrast Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabawe are dry, dusty and hot having had no rain for over six months. The results are incredible and rewarding with waterholes and riverbanks crowded with animals. These large concentration of game attract the big cat and wild dog predators and it is easy to witness a waterhole ambush, a favourite tactic for a lion or leopard.
Travellers could switch to lesser known parts of Tanzania for some superb game viewing. Tarangire is placed conveniently near Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater making it a great combination while Ruaha and Katavi National Parks see just a handful of visitors but has great concentrations of the Big 5, including a boast by Katavi that you will see more lions here than anywhere else on Earth!
Further away the Congo’s Odzala National Park allows access to Central Africa’s incredible rainforests. Here forest elephants and lowland gorillas make for a fascinating photographic tour.
As Europe descends into winter during November and December Africa starts to offer a lovely warm retreat. During November most of Africa is caught between the end of the dry season and the start of the rainy season and the animals are on the move, while December is when summer gets going, the waterholes start to empty as fresh grazing becomes available with the early rains and there are great wildlife migrations taking place all over. November also the best value for prime safari locations before the Christmas peak period. If you’d like to spend Christmas in the bush East Africa reigns once again as the best safari destination. Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda enjoy some dry weather and excellent game viewing. In East Africa the wildebeest start to move from Masai Mara in Kenya to the southern Serengeti in Tanzania while the big game – elephants, big cats, giraffe – remain on the plains.
Southern Africa begins its rainy season with significant heat and humidity, Zambia is still a good destination for a safari because of a unique wildlife event that takes place in Liuwa Plain National Park. A smaller version of the great east African migration takes place, and for safari aficionados, this can be very exciting to witness.
If you’re a birder, Botswana’s Okavango Delta begins to fill up with migrating birds this month, starting their breeding season (which lasts until March). The ‘Green Season’ in the Kalahari Desert brings in thousands of zebras; Springbok herds give birth en masse, just as herds of wildebeest and even buffalo arrive. No surprise then that the Kalahari in December is a predator’s paradise for lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs and hyenas.